Municipality size and political participation: evidence from Australia

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Structural reforms over the past several decades have seen the institution of local government in Australia become progressively less local. Primarily as a result of municipal amalgamation, the average population of Australia's local governments has more than doubled since the early 1990s. The democratic implications of this de-localisation, however, have been severely understudied. This article addresses this gap by analysing the effect of municipality size on several modes of local political participation in the mainland capital city regions of Adelaide and Perth. Drawing on a quantitative analysis of primary survey and electoral data, this paper presents evidence of a negative relationship between municipality size and participation - as size increases, rates of voting, candidacy, contact with local representatives, and council meeting attendance decrease. The implications for local government's input legitimacy and its role as a training ground for democracy - as well as options for 're-localising' local politics - are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-87
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
Early online date12 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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